Ayurvedic therapy complements conventional antibiotics
The idea of using herbs as an antibiotic is steadily gaining ground among drug manufacturers. In the age of drug-resistant ‘super-bugs’, will ‘herbal antibiotics’ be a suitable alternative to conventional antibiotics? Pulin Shroff, Managing Director, Charak Pharma discusses the research possibilities with Sachin Jagdale
Microbes are increasingly becoming resistant to conventional antibiotics. Is this an opportunity for ayurvedic companies to project herbal antibiotics a strong alternative to the conventional ones?
Charak feels that this is a great area for research. Not only are antibiotics becoming less effective in patients but also other therapies like anti TB therapies are becoming drug resistant. The pathogens are becoming resistant to these drugs and the effect of the drugs is not as desired. Thus the dosage of these drugs have to be increased or different types of drugs need to be used. Ayurvedic drugs will, in our opinion, not become an alternative to antibiotics but ayurvedic therapy will certainly complement conventional antibiotics.
For a historial perspective on the way the two systems differ on their view of disease, consider this: Claud Bernard, (1813 – 1878) a French physiologist, a contemporary of Louis Pasteur, maintained that the cause of disease was the ‘soil’ – the human body -rather than the ‘germ’ – the microorganism. Bernard said that pathological microorganisms are opportunistic and merely taking advantage of an unhealthy condition in the body. Bernard and Pasteur were engaged in a lifelong argument on this point. It wasn’t until Pasteur was on his deathbed that he conceded, “It is the soil.” Current holistic practitioners improve the health of the individual – particularly with regard to the immune system – so that the ‘soil’ will be less conducive to the growth of pathological microorganisms and the person’s own body will be able to prevent and fight off disease as it was designed to.
The role of ayurvedic drugs have been ‘rasayanic’ (increasing the strength of the cells and tissues) and immunity enhancing (improving the resistance of the patients to fight the infection). With these two major roles, if physicians add ayurvedic drugs to their anti infective regimens the patient will certainly recover quickly or even require less dose of the antibiotic.
What are Charak’s efforts towards this goal?
Charak is doing a lot of research in this area. We have identified that the need of ayurvedic drugs for patients is very high when they are being treated with antibiotics.
We are working on two of our drugs namely, Extrammune, and Livomyn Extrammune, which improve the immunity of the patient and builds resistance to fight bacteria. Trials have been concluded to show its efficacy in recurrent infections. The patient recovers faster and the effect stays for long term. Livomyn is another drug we have done trials on to show its effect along with anti TB drugs. We have proved that the compliance to AKT drugs is much more and also the toxic effect on the liver gets reduced when our product is used.
How will it be ensured that herbal antibiotics would remain equally effective in the future as well?
Herbal drugs have so far not become antibiotics but one can mention that there are some antiseptics or mild anti bacterials which only complement the antibiotic therapy. We feel that the herbal drug market will boom if physicians start using herbal drugs along with antibiotic therapy.
How will it modify the antibiotic market?
It will not affect the antibiotic market in the short term but in the long term one can expect that the use of antibiotics will become more rational and in the correct dose to achieve good result in patients. From the sales point of view, infections of different types in India are increasing thus there will not be any decrease in sales.
Will the success of herbal antibiotics make global pharma companies look at it as a productive option?
Companies like us and other global herbal companies have positioned herbal products in the following manner in the anti infective market:
As a complementary therapy to improve the compliance of antibiotics in long term chronic infections.
To counter the toxic effects of antibiotics, anti TB drugs or retroviral therapy.
To improve the immune system and prevent recurrent infections espe-cially in the upper respiratory tract.
To help in the convalescence period and help patients recover faster after anti-infective therapy.
Once the positioning of herbal drugs is clear, the worldwide use of the same will also increase. There is lot of research going on in this direction and we hope to see the impact of the same on the prescription habits of physicians.
Practitioners of the Western system of medicine are of the opinion that alternative medication systems like herbals have not gone through the rigour of clinical trials, and therefore benefits of use are not scientifically proved. What is being done to address this concern?
The opinion of Western medicine practitioners is because of the lack of knowledge and information about the same. There are special herbal CROs doing specialised research on formulations. This clearly shows that there is a great amount of activity being undertaken for improving the scientific base of herbal products. Most of the studies being done are focused towards clinical benefits which specifically appeal to the doctor. There has to be a focused effort to do basic research on single herbal ingredients in a scientific manner so that we can identify the mechanism of action and also the active molecule.
Charak is of the opinion that herbal products should be kept in their natural and pure form even after applying quality standards. This is because if you standardise the molecule the activity of the ingredients is altered. Further, ayurvedic texts talk about the efficacy of the herbs in their natural form. Pharma companies like ours apply all the necessary quality tools to ensure the presence of active molecules and also the purity and consistency of the herbs being used in our formulations.
Can these herbals be protected by patents? What is the regulatory stand on patents for herbals? Does this come under geographical indications (GI) section?
Patents for herbals can be done provided there is something new found or engineered in the herbs or formulations. The raw herb or a combination of the same does not stand up to patent norms because it is not new or discovered which can be patented. Moreover the process of patenting some formulations and also the engineering of the same is being done. A word of caution is that international companies are also looking at this potential.